Updated: Oct 20, 2022
Do you know the success formula? Is it a combination of talent and hard work and no magic?
The two incredibly talented individuals with big hearts Mario and Gianni
have exceptional Italian sense of style. They turned their hobby into a business which they run pretty much single-handedly. They say there is no magic, just passion, hard work and perseverance. Why did they call it Magia2000 then?! Let's find out!
Please meet my guests, all the way from Italy...
Hello Mario and Gianni, would you please introduce yourselves?
We are Mario Paglino and Gianni Grossi and together we formed the artistic duo Magia2000.
We create one of a kind dolls and design for dolls since 2000 and we are also collectors. We love to create haute couture outfits and concept dolls and our artistic life has been a journey through fashion and graphic designing, landed on this incredible world of doll collecting.
Our passion for dolls has always been clear since we were children and just emerged once again when older.
Can you describe how you feel about your incredibly talented duo in 5 words?
Blessed by the collectors appreciation.
But if you mean in 5 adjectives: elegant, extravagant, European, detailed and balanced.
Magia2000 has recently celebrated 23 years. How did it all start? What or who inspired you?
Yes, it’s been a long journey and we never thought this could get us so far. We started collecting back in 1997, when we first met, and it was a coincidence to find a promotional doll in a Barbie magazine while we were on vacation. We both re-discovered how much we loved playing with dolls in our childhood and very easily start searching more info about Barbie on the net. It was the early period of Yahoo groups and internet and a friend of ours brought us a Barbie Bazaar magazine from the USA and we immediately got addicted and involved. We started playing and creating with simple fabrics at home, from curtains cut-off fabric or any kind of leftover materials, we wanted to enjoy the hobby. This is still the same feeling we have now, of course with a more mature and refined sense of style and techniques but it’s always the pleasure to create something we like.
Since the beginning, we took inspiration from the Italian couture we always admired and loved. Valentino, Versace, Armani and Dolce Gabbana were just few of the incredible designers we always looked at and we deeply admire.
About the dolly-world, we believe that artists like Jim Faraone and Ninimomo, some of the pioneers of the early times of the doll customization art, were our references, but immediately we searched our own creativity direction.
Why Magia2000? Is there any special story behind the name?
It’s quite simple, Magia means “Magic” in Italian and we built it with our names. It’s the anagram of the initials of our two names. MA-rio and GIA-nni, MA+GIA and the game is done, MAGIA. We started showcasing our dolls in a local doll show in 2000 and this is why we thought this could be the new kind of magic for the millennium.
Tell me how you manage to go from strength to strength?
We always thought this could be dealt as a normal business, even if when we started this was a hobby and way far from being considered a real job at all. With our professional skills, Gianni was a graphic designer and I was a sales manager, we wanted to evolve and we have been trained in different ways, from tailoring and patterns making school to high couture embroidery classes in Paris at Maison Lesage.
Step by step we created our expertise and we invested so much in learning and traveling to many different doll shows and countries.
We consider each of our dolls as part of a bigger collection as we design them with themes.
How big your team?
We are 3, Gianni and Mario and one assistant who joined us in the last few years.
You travelled the world with your creations. Where did you receive the warmest welcome?
Of course, we have our main customer base in USA, as Barbie and most of dolls’ homeland. We have now many friends there and we always dreamt of visiting USA so many times, discovering all the different cities of this amazing country. But we have a special connection with Japan too. We love Japanese collectors and even though it’s a very small community, they really welcomed us in the warmest way possible.
2016 marked a milestone for you when you received the prestigious Barbie Best Friend Award? How did you feel about it? Did it feel real at all?
It was a real unexpected and magical moment for us. We always worked and created for our own pleasure and also celebrate and support the Barbie brand with deep passion. So it was a true highlight in our career to be recognized by the iconic Barbie designer, Carol Spencer and the Barbie community who suggest the recipients. It was overwhelming and truly rewarding. A great honour.
You are very keen fund-raisers and have been helping to raise funds for years. Is there anything specific you show support to or you support a variety of causes?
Through the years we were able to support different causes with the charity auctions we took part and it was an honour for us. It’s a great way to express your creativity and help many children and their families. We usually like to support associations which take care of children, as we create dolls and it’s so close to our hearts. In Italy, we used to support Dynamo Camp, an association which gift free holidays to children with severe illnesses. We also visited the venue in the past, being able to see the efforts of this beautiful team of people. It’s our humble way to help others and raise money to support this charity, playing with dolls. Isn’t it fantastic?
You collaborate on a regular basis with Mattel Italy and Europe? How has Magia2000 shaped the European Barbie market over years?
Yes, it’s since 2008 that we have been involved in many different projects in Europe and now in many other countries around the world.
It’s a dream come true. It’s amazing to have been able to switch our hobby to a dream job and do it for the brand we all admire and played with since childhood. Being external designers and support the brand allows us flexibility and freedom in different directions. We can design and create special OOAK outfits or propose special events, exhibitions. We support the brand not only by creating outfits, but also as stylists on set for special shooting, like it happened for Vogue Italy several times.
Mattel is a great company and is elevating Barbie to a worldwide icon, from a simple toy to a global social media and forever icon. We absolutely are honoured to be part in a very small tiny way of this process and we cherish every collaboration experience.
Like no one else, you have created quite a few celebrity mini-me dolls. What reaction do you normally get back from celebrities?
What a challenging question! It’s kind of difficult to satisfy everybody and celebrities are not exceptions. Some were absolutely happy and some were kind of “hmm - not my thing”. You never know if the person you are getting close to, is a fan of dolls or maybe not. Celebrities are so importantly connected to their image and they live for their public image, so it’s a sensitive subject to replicate their image into a doll.
Anyway, most of them were surprised and happy as we donate them dolls as a gift, it’s more a way to get to know them and pay tribute to some of our idols.
I remember watching you on screen at the Graham Norton Show when you presented Madonna dolls to Madonna herself. She tried to keep cool, but I think she was blown away by your creations and if she could, she would gladly keep all of them! How did you feel being on the show in the spotlight?
We truly believe she was blown away too, but she absolutely was surprised. Everything you watched was unexpected for her and the whole reactions was iconic and we had so much fun. Madonna’s sense of humour is always kind of bitchy but she is the Queen and this is how we love her and expected her to react. So careful about the details, as happened with the sunglasses, and this is what she always taught me, to work hard and never give up on details… We admire her determination and this is what we always tried to put into our job too.
We got incredible feedback and positive reactions at the end from many sources, manager and the TV host, so we know she loved it. We also were able to deliver other 2 dolls later in 2020 for her “MadameX Tour” and she also posted on her Instagram stories, so we suppose she like them.
You are creators of Italian doll convention. How is it different from doll conventions in other countries? Is there anything you won’t get anywhere else, apart from Magia2000 dolls of course :)
From 2011 we created the Italian Doll Convention with the same spirit we live and experience at the US National Convention. As a foreigner, and being the first to travel to an American convention back in 2002, we always dreamt of having the same kind of convention and tried to create something very close to it. We think IDC is probably the first in Europe of this big scale and level of organisation, with lots of glamour and funny things. We deliver almost everything collectors want and search from there, from funny night with karaoke and entertainment to cultural moment of learning with workshops and classes. The salesroom is wide and probably the biggest in Europe in terms of number of dealers and artists of any kind. But most of all what makes a difference is the atmosphere, the group of people who join the convention and enjoy the friendship. It’s not only a doll market or a doll related weekend, its’ a community reunion with lots of friends gathering.
And yes, a little of Magia touch around ;)
Do you take custom orders? And how realistic is it to order a made-to-order doll from Magia2000?
Yes, we usually do even if we like to create free with our collection, we accept special projects. Some collectors love colour variations of our doll or they love having some couture dress made for their dolls, even if we prefer to create a whole concept doll and not only the dress. We like to have the complete doll to make her special and unique, from makeup and painting to clothing. When a customer ask for a commission, we are very careful to get a clear idea of what they expect, with photo requests, hair colour and accessory references and all the info’s.
Now to the major excitement of the doll community this year: your collaboration with Integrity Toys! Your first offering was your vision of what Lukas would wear if he attended the world-famous Venice Carnival. It is so chic, glam and Italian! Tell me why of all Integrity characters you have chosen Lukas?
Gianni is an Integrity Toys Hommes collector, he focused on male dolls collecting and Lukas is his favourite character ever. So this was an obvious choice for us, even if nobody at IT pushed us to use a male doll. We also wanted to embrace a challenging route for us, designing for male dolls.
We like challenges and we push ourselves into something we never did before. So although this is a lifetime opportunity and this is all new to us, we want to have fun and play, never losing the fun of playing while we create something so important like a production prototype for a big brand like Integrity Toys.
Will we see more Magia2000 designs on Integrity dolls this year?
As we unveiled during the special W Club presentation, this is the first of 4 dolls of our capsule collection for IT.
We truly hope to unveil them soon, but this project is truly important for us and for the collectors who always supported us, so we want to be sure everything is how we like, before going forward to the next one. IT is an incredible company and always stands out for quality and incredibly detailed designs, so we have to learn so much from this collaboration and the way all our visions have to go through a production process we are new to. We are so super excited and thrilled for this project and we also want to explore new fashion and styling side of our creativity.
If you could get absolutely any collaboration you want, who would that be with?
During these 23 years, we designed for an Italian company creating Brigitte Bardot doll, we designed 2 successful Barbie Convention dolls (Film Noir & Barbie is Eternal), many different OOAK dolls for Mattel and many incredible celebrities. Now we have this amazing opportunity to design this capsule collection with Integrity Toys and be the first OOAK designer from the doll community to achieve this honour.
We’ve had so much and always believe that good things comes when you work hard and show your passion.
In the future we dream to keep on with this. Of course our biggest dream is to create a doll for Mattel in production. Well, it would be a dream to create something for Silkstone Fashion Model Barbie line, if they ever come back into production. That line is our main inspiration and Robert Best is a great friend and an incredible designer to look up to. Somebody also commented on Instagram about a Magia collaboration for Poppy, that would be good too, we love David and his talent.
Let’s hope and never stop dreaming, this is the only rule for us.
Your designs are amazing, so detailed and elegant. What is the process from the idea in your mind to the final design in your hands?
That’s quite complicated to explain. From sketches or pics in the fashion magazines, everything is manually done. Patterns, fabric choices and materials combinations. We work as a team, following the original idea we have, eventually the collection theme we have.
Embroidery process is the longest and it takes several hours or days and has to be coordinated with patterns making and sewing. Then I paint the doll face completely and styled the hair, if not re-rooted before. The accessories are the last part of the creating process, but it is a very important part, because everything has to match the colours and the volumes of the doll, it has to add extra beauty and be balanced in shapes and style.
The last part is the media part with photo shooting and social media or website presentation. Every doll is a unique piece and has her own identity.
Would you call yourself a doll collector? And if so, how big is your collection?
Absolutely yes. We started as collectors and we are still collecting hard. I am a Barbie collector and as told, Gianni collects mainly male dolls. Our collection has between 2 to 3 thousand pieces and it was part of the “Barbie The Icon” exhibition which travelled around Europe few years ago.
Did you play with dolls as a child? If you could go back in time to when you were small what doll would you take with you and why?
We both played with Barbie as children but unfortunately in different moments of our lives we were bullied by our friends for this. It was the 70’s and early 80’s and playing with dolls was not a manly game or was not acceptable for a boy in Italy. Our families gave all our dolls away and we both share the same story.
One of the first dolls I bought, as an adult collector, was my first Barbie, Dream Date Barbie and Gianni got his Superstar Barbie. So we can tell we already have our dolls back.
How do you store your designs? Are they on display?
We usually create dolls for collectors and we only keep some important prototypes, which are in display cases. We love to see them and have them displayed as we are de-boxers. We collect for our own pleasure and we love to see them around us.
How do you think the doll community world will change in 10 years from now?
Difficult question and not easy to answer. The whole world is going through challenging years. Pandemic and production processes are now so evolving and changing the whole world economy, so it’s not easy to have a full vision of the future.
We believe that doll collecting is a luxury and this is why we started creating OOAK dolls we intend to be a luxury item for collectors.
There will always more doll collectors, but different levels of collecting, more diversity and with the new 3D technologies a lot of new designers and dolls around. It will be important to have an even more united community of collectors, who share constructive opinions.
About Magia2000, we always search for new challenges and we know that there are different levels of collectors, so this is why this last February we launched our limited edition line MG2K. It’s a lower priced line in limited edition numbers. It’s a project we want to expand in the future but only in certain period of the year. We like to be around conventions and to meet collectors, this is how we started, how we get all our feedback and inspiration.
Any links, social media profiles you would like to share with readers, so they can find out more about you?
Of course, the most instant connection to Magia2000 is our Instagram profile, where we almost daily post pictures and stories or reels, with behind the scene or official images and some personal life experiences. So follow us on Instagram or Facebook
Thank you Mario and Gianni for agreeing to be interviewed and for sharing your amazing and inspiring doll story!
All photographs are property of Magia 2000 and have been published with their kind permission.